What are they on about?

1st June 2001 at 01:00
David Newnham gets as high as a Flexifoil Psycho on the beach

The man with the over-inflated chest is as irritating as a jet ski. "Yes, yes, YES!" he screams at his offspring. "Now bring it up! Now, now, NOW!"... thwack.

The "thwack" is the sound of his son's kite burying itself in the sand, although the target could just as easily have been my head. It's time to move. But where to? There's a fresh breeze today, and the New Kiters are out in force. A dozen menacing shapes snap at my immediate patch of sky, while the area closer to the sea has been taken over by a gang of men in neoprene suits who are trying to persuade a monstrous airborne canopy to drag them through the waves. The entire beach is now a hard-hat area.

Gone are the friendly kites of the children's book, with their frilly tails above a beachscape of sandcastles and starfish. Today's kite is hard and fast. And it isn't even kite-shaped. Costly carbon fibre spars have replaced the bits of old doweling that Uncle Rupert used, and the pieces cut from mum's old pinafore have been replaced by synthetic fabrics calledChikara or Icarex. Don't look now, but the sharp-looking object that scythes the air above your head is a Flexifoil Psycho. There's a Prism Fanatic swooping in at three o'clock and, unless I'm mistaken, that's a Spirit of Air Shockwave zooming out of the sun.

They come from shops with names such as Whaam and Atlantic Action, Ombok Extreme and Mission Adventure Sports, and some come complete with bags, straps, T-shirts, hats, harnesses and a CD-Rom full of tips on how to do loop-the-loops and victory rolls.

Some kite flyers actually call themselves pilots, and not just those who use "traction" or "power" kites to pull "buggies" or "parakarts".

Is it possible that these people are having some sort of out-of-body experience as they stand there straining on the sand? Can they really imagine that they are up there in the sky with their ludicrously expensive apparatus, gazing down on us low-life as we scurry from beach-hut to sand dune looking for a place to hide?

If so, then the humble kite has taken one-upmanship to new heights.


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